A few years ago, I had the opportunity to make somebody else’s dream come true. A single mother I knew who was struggling to get by wanted more than anything to send her son to a private Milwaukee high school, but there was no way she could afford to pay tuition.

Even though I had no salary coming in at the time, I threw caution to the wind and wrote out a check to cover his tuition. I would just have to get creative in order to earn that extra income back in a year that was already looking extremely thin. But what happened instead? Within an hour of writing that check, I won almost that exact same amount from a raffle ticket I didn’t even buy!

If you ask me, networking is all about giving. When you truly give to others without any expectations and strings attached, you will receive much more than you ever could have expected. I’ve long believed that miracles will happen when you give of yourself and allow life to work its natural course without manipulating the outcome.

I believe networking gives you confidence to interact with others, teaches resiliency, and helps you overcome challenges in life. The concept of engaging others with an attitude of giving, not getting, will enrich your relationships and your life.

To help you become a better networker, I’d like to introduce a very simple four-step process. In fact, it seems so simple and so easy that it’s almost embarrassing to map out. But don’t be fooled. While it sounds simple, it’s tough to do. It’s much like losing weight. All you have to do is eat less and exercise more. Piece of cake, right? Even still, over 30% of Americans suffer from obesity.

So with no further adieu, the four steps are:

  1. Ask
  2. Listen
  3. Act
  4. Believe and Receive


You have to learn how to ask good questions. Since relationships deepen through face-to-face contact, the ability to make interesting and thought-provoking inquiries can turn you into an excellent conversationalist and strong networker. When you are asking for something, you’ve got to find a way to do so with a mindset of giving. You have to ask persistently. You have to ask creatively. You have to ask outside the box. And at the end of all this, you have to make asking just outright fun.


Many people think great networkers are great talkers. In fact, they’re not. They’re really great listeners. When you engage in a conversation with someone, listen actively. Listen intuitively. Listen to that quiet voice within you. Listen closely to what is really being said. Remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion.


Be the person who always follows up. Many of us ask and listen, but we don’t act. It all boils down to fear, so you need to ask yourself “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Those who offer to take action and follow through are worth more than gold – and never forgotten.

Believe and Receive

Have faith in yourself and in what you’re doing. Have faith that when you truly give to others, you’ll receive more than you’ll ever give. When you’re open to answers that you didn’t know existed, great things will happen.

What makes the four-step process such a challenge is that the whole idea of networking as a place you go to give, and not get, is counter-intuitive. Most of us are pretty self-centered and what I’m asking you to do in this process is get outside yourself and put the focus on others.

By applying these four steps to your everyday life, they will not only transform you into a better networker, but they will also help you become better connected, grow your business, and give your life greater meaning.

[Ed. Note: Joe Sweeney is the New York Times Best Selling author of Networking Is a Contact Sport. Joe takes the anxiety out of networking by helping people understand that networking is really about giving, not getting. Over the course of his 30-year career Joe has served on 28 Boards of Directors, was President of the Wisconsin Sports Authority and has owned more than 12 companies—including the sports marketing agency Sports Marketing Group, which he founded when three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre signed on as the first client.]

1 Comment

  1. Phil Wheatley on July 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Hi Joe

    Great post and I agree with your points, when I go to a networking event, I love to ask business owners as many questions as I can and to give adavice, to the point where they almost don’t get a chance to ask about my own business. Many of them find this approach refreshing, as most of the other attendees like to talk about themselves instead.

    I also like what you said about having the mindset of giving. Often, people will ask to be mentored. I find it is better to ask what YOU can do for them, even if it means doing free work for them without expecting anything in return. Often, you will learn more by doing this then paying them for coaching.


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